“I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.”
– Persuasion by Jane Austen
In 1963, Betty Friedan uncovered and documented a widespread dissatisfaction with the limited roles of American women at the time. The Feminine Mystique, named after a phrase Friedan coined to expose the myth that women could only ever be satisfied in the capacity of homemaker, inspired the empowerment of women across the nation and is credited as the birth of second-wave feminism.
You may find it peculiar for me to be discussing Friedan in a blog dedicated to Jane Austen. However, Austen was no less radical than Friedan and shared her inspirational spirit. As a female living in the regency era, which was strongly governed by gender, birth, and propriety, Austen was no stranger to what Friedan called “the problem that has no name.” With her sharp wit and keen eye for the absurdities of social structures, Austen was exposing the confines of women nearly three hundred years before The Feminine Mystique.
Over the course of fifteen weeks, a collection of six contemporary American women, including myself, will seek to explore and meticulously examine Austen’s six completed novels. There are sure to be reminiscences of our earlier Austen encounters as well as new discoveries made. One thing’s for certain: centuries later, Austen still resonates with the modern world.